A new perspective on bump skiing
I’ve always had a love-hate relationshipwith bumps: At age 16, Iordered vanity license plates thatread “Moguls 2″ (living in Chicago,”Moguls 1” was taken, most likely bya high-powered corporate exec, butapparently nobody in Illinois wanted tobe a No. 2 Mogul). Shortly thereafter,I moved to Breckenridge and realizedhow perfect my license plate really was:In the Midwest, I could “do moguls,”but when it came to bumps at Breck, Ifound myself at a loss, hence, my goalturned toward learning to ski (Colorado)moguls, too.My only stumbling block: I joined theBreck Freestyle Team to learn and competein ballet skiing, and as a result ofpeer pressure, I swallowed my pride andshowed up for moguls training one day.But, that day, our coach proclaimed thatif we competed moguls seriously andlong enough, we’d all eventually blowout at least one knee. Needless to say, Ibowed out. I may have hit my head onetoo many times learning how to flipover my ballet poles, but I was smartenough to know I wasn’t in love withbumps enough to sacrifice my knees.For the next decade or so, I pickedand turned my way through bumps,well enough to fake my way down, untilabout age 33, when I decided I was officiallyold enough to basically give upbumps, with the exception of Pali laps.Instead, I dedicated my ski life to powder- the deeper, the better.Fast-forward a few years, and in walksStephen Karp, aka Karpy, who introduceshis BumpBuster Mogul Campto me. I was at a party, and I could’vesworn he said something about Zen andbumps, which caught my attention. Itsounded like an easier, softer way to ski,and everyone raved about his classes, soI signed up.
I was pretty sure I hallucinated theZen description of Karpy’s mogul campclinic, because when I showed up Saturdaymorning at Copper Mountainfor day one of the two-day experience,he explained his philosophy of coaching:He’s not here to coddle; he’s hereto point out weaknesses and developstrengths.”We’re a little bit on the hard-coreside,” he said.Hmmm.Yet, his personality was so welcomingand fun loving, it was hard to feel intimidated.It was clear his mission involvedgiving us the most information in thebest way possible to help us love moguls(again, or for the first time, dependingon your situation).”I’m going to throw 28 things at you,and I want three to stick,” he said. “Theothers are just planting the seed.”And from the minute he began bustingequipment myths (for bumps, polesshould be lower than a 90-degree angle,and your boots should be as soft as possible),it was clear he knew his stuff.
Without much ado, he rattled off a fewof his qualifications, which include:competitive mogul skier on the USSAEastern and Far West Mogul Tours forfour years, going to Nationals twice, skiingon the World Pro Mogul Tour, ToyotaMogul Tour, Budweiser Mogul Tour andRed Bull Mogul Tour over nine yearsand now, as a certified ski instructor,dedicating himself to creating one of thebest ski schools in the world.After quick introductionsof the approximately dozenpeople in the group – dividedalmost evenly between menand women ranging from theirlate 20s to “senior” years – wehit the f lats and began dissectingthe elements of a solidturn: poles forward (“Poles are40 percent of mogul skiing,”Karpy said), upper body quietand hips moving down the fallline (ladies, Karpy has a greatsaying for this one, but I’ll let him tellyou). We practiced finishing our turnsso as not to brace against the fall linewith side rotation, tail braking or both.We learned more about balance, athleticstance, boot flex, mental focus andpatience. We skied down one by one, asKarpy and his teammate Brent Browntold us what we were doing wrong andwhat we needed to do to correct it.While this kind of spotlight attentionand constructive criticism couldfeel intimidating and even discouraging,the environment Karpy set up fromthe start had nothing to do with feelingbad about yourself or your skiing,and it certainly didn’t have anythingto do with comparing yourself to others(I’m pretty sure this is where thatZen thing comes in, especially as hementioned something about “present momentappreciation” and “flowing likewater”). He treated us like athletes intraining; we all have something we canimprove upon.While he threw skiing tips that woulddouble as wise life lessons into the mix- such as, ” if you’re looking whereyou’re going, you’re acting; if you’re not,you’re reacting” – he also embraced theart of laughing and making fun of ourmistakes. Take, for instance, the pottyaward, given to the skier who sits backtoo much. Luckily, Karpy’s humor wasjust as fun loving and nonthreatening ashis personality – because during lunch,he paused and slow-motioned our turns,using chopsticks to analyze our postureand shamelessly replaying our bobblesand backseat jerks. The day ended with a”bump off” on the flats of Halleluiah.
By Sunday, Karpy and Brown focusedmuch more on our strengths than ourweaknesses, and if I hadn’t taught skiingfor a year and known a bit about formand skills, I may have thought theywere just trying to make us feel betterand prove they were great instructorsbecause “we had come so far.” But as Iwatched my classmates, it was true: Theday before, we wouldn’t have poundedout zipper lines or made such smooth,rounded turns around the moguls. Weall really had improved, and our confidencelevels had risen as well.What the bumpers had to say
Being somewhat of a journalist, Iwanted to check my instincts out. Karpysaid he had taught 6,800 people in hismogul clinics, and only two told himthey didn’t like it – pretty good odds.Still, I did my own research by pullingparticipants aside and asking their honestopinions.Rebecca Collier came in from Minnesotafor Bump Busters. At first, she feltintimidated by being videoed and thenwatching it, but through it she learned:”A lot of us have similar issues – maybemore pronounced – and it helps yourconfidence when you realize thatyou’re not alone and it just takes doingit more.”Denverite Laura Humes took theworkshop with her husband, and Sundaymorning, when Karpy mentionedwe’d be going off cornices, she stiffenedup and was pretty much ready to jumpship before she jumped any cornice. ButKarpy introduced her to a benign cornice,where she gained confidence. Bythe time he led Humes through the treeson a balance exercise, she was rippin’down steep, bumped pitches. She saideverything he taught her made her “abetter overall skier,” who nolonger feared cornices.DeWit t Harrison, whodescribed himself as a seniorcitizen from Boulder, alsoneeded a nudge to reach thenext level.”It just pushed me so hard,and that’s what I needed,” Harrisonsaid. “I was stuck in a bigrut, and now I’m learning howto turn and (maintain a good)stance through moguls.”Everyone seemed to loveKarpy’s charisma. As Katy Friedrichs,from Denver, put it:”He has an amazing personality forthis, and he’s not afraid to tell you whatyou’re doing wrong, but he also tells youwhat you’re doing right, which is nice.”Harrison didn’t mince words whendescribing Karpy’s character:”I love his enthusiasm,” he said. “He’sa little bit like a sailor – just kind ofrough around the edges – but it works.He always gets his points across. I lovehis energy.”
“The bottom line is that if you don’tski bumps, you’re missing 40 percent ofthe mountain,” Karpy said in a story theSummit Daily News printed four yearsafter he founded BumpBusters.And after completing his program, I’vegiven up my official “I’ve quit bumps”stance, not because, according to Karpy,I’m missing out on 40 percent of themountain, but because he reminded mewhat I intuitively knew at age 16, whenI purchased those vanity plates for mycar: Learning to ski moguls, too, spillsover into the rest of your skiing technique,making you stronger and moresolid all around.Plus, bump fields are always the last toget skied up on a powder day.
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